President-elect Joe Biden delivered a forceful rebuke on Monday to President Donald Trump’s attacks on the legitimacy of his victory, hours after winning the state-by-state Electoral College vote that officially determines the US presidency.
“In this battle for the soul of America, democracy prevailed,” Biden said in a prime-time speech from his hometown of Wilmington, Delaware. “Now it’s time to turn the page, as we’ve done throughout our history – to unite, to heal.”
Monday’s vote, typically a formality, assumed outsized significance in light of Trump’s extraordinary effort to subvert the process due to what he has falsely alleged was widespread voter fraud in the Nov. 3 election.
California, the most-populous U.S. state, put Biden over the 270 votes needed to win the Electoral College when its 55 electors unanimously cast ballots for him and his running mate, Kamala Harris. Biden and Harris - the first woman, first Black person and first Asian American to become vice president-elect - will be sworn in on Jan. 20.
In a roughly 13-minute speech, Biden, the Democratic former vice president, called for unity while voicing confidence that the country’s democratic institutions had held in the face of Trump’s attempts to reverse the election outcome.
Electors are typically party loyalists who are unlikely to break ranks, and few observers had expected Monday’s vote to alter the election’s outcome
“The flame of democracy was lit in this nation a long time ago,” Biden said. “We now know that not even a pandemic or an abuse of power can extinguish that flame.”
Biden emphasized that Trump and his allies filed “dozens and dozens” of legal challenges to the vote totals without success, including a Texas lawsuit that asked the U.S. Supreme Court to invalidate four states’ results. The court, including three Trump appointees, rejected the bid with no dissents last week.
He also noted that his 306-232 margin in the Electoral College was the same as Trump’s 2016 victory, which the Republican described as a “landslide.”
Under a complicated system dating back to the 1780s, a candidate becomes U.S. president not by winning the popular vote but through the Electoral College system, which allots electoral votes to the 50 states and the District of Columbia based on congressional representation.
In 2016, Trump defeated Democrat Hillary Clinton despite losing the national popular vote by nearly 3 million ballots. Biden won the popular vote in November by more than 7 million votes.
Electors are typically party loyalists who are unlikely to break ranks, and few observers had expected Monday’s vote to alter the election’s outcome. With Trump’s legal challenges floundering, the president’s dim hopes of clinging to power rest in persuading Congress not to certify the Electoral College vote in a special Jan. 6 session - an effort all but certain to fail.
Trump had also pressured Republican lawmakers in battleground states that Biden won, such as Pennsylvania and Michigan, to set aside the vote totals and appoint their own competing slates of electors. But lawmakers largely dismissed the notion.
“I fought hard for President Trump. Nobody wanted him to win more than me,” Lee Chatfield, Republican speaker of the Michigan House of Representatives, said in a statement. “But I love our republic, too. I can’t fathom risking our norms, traditions and institutions to pass a resolution retroactively changing the electors for Trump.”